I've been fascinated by word pronunciations where changing the spelling of one syllable doesn't change its pronunciation, but rather changes another syllable in the word. The only two examples I can think of have very similar structures... the same vowels in both sets, where the changing of the second syllable vowel to either "a" or "e" changes how the "o" is pronounced in the first syllable.

The examples are:

Woman and Women

Modal and Model

Are there other examples of this? What are some possible reasons why the spelling is different for the unchanged syllable?


closed as too broad by tchrist, Edwin Ashworth, Drew, choster, Zairja Jan 27 '15 at 21:08

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    English spelling doesn't represent its pronunciation, so if you're fascinated by inconsistency, you're in the right place. However, you really should stop thinking that there is any connection between the spelling of an English word or phrase (English spelling is a recent technological accident, frequently varied in practice) and its pronunciation (generated over centuries by what Sapir called the "mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations") – John Lawler Jan 27 '15 at 0:34
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    Do proper nouns count? How about Venice and Venus? – Peter Shor Jan 27 '15 at 0:49
  • @JohnLawler - I have been looking for that quote since Witer Bash started, but I couldn't remember who said it. Thanks! – anongoodnurse Jan 27 '15 at 1:29
  • To piggyback on @John Lawler's point, there are other examples that don't fit the exact pattern you describe here, but still might be considered spelling oddities if you assumed that spelling reliably dictated pronunciation. Examples include: oven/open, even/seven, haven/having, modem/modern, seven/even, money/movie, pint/pinto, miser/misery and colony/colonel. – J.R. Jan 27 '15 at 1:53
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    @JohnLawler - beautiful and profound. – anongoodnurse Jan 27 '15 at 4:39